Have you been injured on someone else’s property? You may have a premises liability claim (also known as a slip and fall accident claim). If you or a loved one has suffered an injury, the property owner may be required to compensate you. Speak with a Los Angeles premises liability attorney at Citywide Law Group to discuss your rights.
What is California Premises Liability?
Under California Civil Code §1714(a), property owners in California have an obligation to keep their premises safe and secure. This law requires them to take care of hazards on the property or, at the very least, to ensure those who come onto the property have adequate warning of any potential or existing hazards.
Business owners, homeowners and renters fall under the California laws of premises liability. The legal theory of premises liability holds property owners liable for any accident or injury which occurs on the property. Not only is the condition of the property taken into consideration during a premises liability lawsuit, the legal status of the person who was hurt, is also an issue.
Further, the following issues may come under consideration during a premises liability lawsuit:
- The circumstances under which a person entered the property;
- The typical use of the property;
- The likelihood of an accident or injury such as the one suffered, and
- The reasonableness of the owner’s efforts to repair or warn of the condition which caused the accident.
Almost any danger on public or private property, which could conceivably lead to an accident or injury may be subject to a premises liability lawsuit, barring adequate warning of the hazard or when the injured person contributed in some way to the accident.
Types of Premise Liability Claims
Slip and Fall Accidents
Slip and fall accidents or trip and fall accidents are likely the most common type of premise liability claim. Between 2006 – 2010, there were over 149,410 fall-related injuries in Los Angeles County. This includes people falling in:
- Shopping malls,
- Grocery stores,
- Parking lots,
- Restaurants and bars,
- Airports terminals, and
- On escalators and stairs,
- On sidewalks.
The elderly are more prone to slip and falls, with over 27,000 Los Angeles residents aged 60 and older injured and 400 dead in 2007 alone, although people of all ages can take a serious tumble when negligence is present. Slip and falls most commonly occur when an object is left out to trip over, or when a spill occurs that is not cleaned up.
Slip and falls can occur due to:
- Stairs which are poorly maintained or poorly lit;
- Flawed design;
- Inadequate maintenance of the property;
- Inadequate security measures;
- Problems with escalators and elevators;
- Fixtures which are improperly secured, and
- Water leaks which result in slippery surfaces.
Other Causes of Premises Liability Claims
- Dog Bite Claims – Dog bites are also a common reason for premise liability lawsuits. All dog owners have a legal obligation to ensure their dog does not cause injury or harm. They have an obligation to keep them on a leash and/or in a private yard.
- Drowning Claims – Swimming pool accidents occur often, especially to young children who wander into a pool, which is not properly fenced. Tragically, many children drown each year from pool accidents.
- Negligent Security Claims – Negligent security at a public hotel, restaurant, parking lot, parking garage, or other public place can lead to assault. Because property owners have a specific level of care owed to guests in public places, a premise liability claim may be brought against the owner of the property when a crime occurs on their property.
Level of Care Depends on Type of Visitor
There are different levels of care owed, depending on what type of visitor is injured. Customers in grocery stores, malls, restaurants or other public places are considered invitees, and property owners owe invitees the highest level of care.
Friends, family members and other social guests who come to your home are known as licensees; these people come to your home because they are invited, and are there for non-business purposes.
Property owners are nonetheless liable for any known dangers which lead to an accident. Therefore, the following issues will help determine liability:
- The use of the property in question;
- The foreseeability of the accident which occurred;
- The circumstances under which the visitor entered the property, and
- The reasonableness of the efforts made by the owner to repair a dangerous condition or warn visitors of a dangerous condition.
Responsibility to Trespassers
Property owners have much less obligation to trespassers on their property, however property owners are not allowed to deliberately set up dangers on their property to stop trespassers. If, however, the owner is aware that trespassers are likely to enter the property, the owner may be charged with a duty to provide reasonable warning of potential injury.
This requirement only applies to situations that the owner is aware could cause serious injury or death. In other words, while an owner is not obligated to warn of naturally occurring hazards (poison ivy, thorny bushes, etc.), the owner is obligated to inform of dangerous, man-made hazards.
Responsibility to Children
Even when children are trespassing, the owner’s duty to warn is different than for an adult trespasser. This is true primarily when property owners have swimming pools which are considered attractive to children (known as an “attractive nuisance.”)
In such a case, the owner must give warning, and must have the potential danger—such as a swimming pool—fenced so children cannot come in on their own and potentially drown.
Statute of Limitations for California Premises Liability Claims
The time frame for filing a premises liability claim in Los Angeles is detailed under California Code of Civil Procedure §335.1. These statutes of limitations allow you two years to bring a premises liability accident claim.
With such a short window of time, it is important that you speak to a knowledgeable Los Angeles premises liability attorney to ensure none of the crucial dates are missed.
Who is Liable for Injuries?
California operates under what is known as pure comparative fault rule. Under the pure comparative fault rule, the injured person may collect damages, even if he or she was partially at fault in the accident, however the compensation received would be decreased by percentage of blame. As an example, if a person were running in an airport to catch a plane, then slipped on a wet surface with no warning signs posted, that person might be considered at least partially at fault.
This means he or she would be able to recover only the percent of damages which are not considered his or her fault. It is important to remember, however that the person being sued must prove the injured person was also responsible for the accident, rather than the person proving they were not negligent.
What Must Be Proven in a Premises Liability Case
The following elements must be established in a premises liability case:
- The plaintiff was owed a legal duty by the property owner;
- That legal duty was breached by the property owner, and
- The breach of legal duty was the cause of the injuries suffered.
Additionally, the following factual elements must be established:
- The defendant in the case controlled the property whether through ownership, leasing or occupying;
- The defendant in the case was negligent in either the use of the property or the maintenance of the property;
- The plaintiff suffered harm, and
- The defendant’s negligence was a significant and substantial factor in the harm suffered by the plaintiff.
Recovery in a Premises Liability Case
Depending on the circumstances of your accident, as well as the extent of your injuries, you may be able to recover the following:
- Lost wages;
- Loss of earning capacity;
- Present and future medical expenses;
- Pain and suffering, and
- General damages.
It is important to note that California property owners may not be liable for damages caused by relatively minor defects in their property (referred to as the “trivial defect defense”).
Speak to a Los Angeles Premises Liability Attorney Today
If you were injured due to a hazardous condition on another’s property, it is important to speak with a Los Angeles premises liability attorney as soon as possible following the accident. Your experienced attorney can help by gathering the necessary evidence, interviewing any potential witnesses to the accident, negotiating with insurance companies while you heal from your injuries, and, when necessary, presenting your case to a jury.
A large number of premises liability cases settle outside of court, however it is important you choose an attorney who is equally skilled at negotiating and litigating. We will review police records in order to determine whether others have been injured in the same manner, and if video surveillance is available, we will request and review that footage. If you need extensive rehabilitation or further surgical procedures as a result of your injuries, our expert will document these medical issues.